Thursday 26 November 2009

HALL at Hornsey Town Hall


Immersive, creepy, stunning, shadowy...

It's an interactive, participative site specific performance by the 1929 company (click on the link above for more info). Sadly its run at Hornsey Town Hall is over - where will this imaginative group go next?

Hornsey Town Hall in Crouch End is an Art Deco masterpiece, no longer used. The owl is from the front gates. It is vast and labyrinthine and every detail is beautiful. I went to HALL as dusk was falling - good move, as it was nearly dark inside, only a crepuscular glow from the sky and the lights from distant offices or reception desks.

You are given an MP3 player which tells you where to go and what to do. There's something going on in the building, but you never find out what. It's like being present in a hybrid dream/teenage party/Kafka novel/Petshop Boys video.

The mainly young cast are dressed in suits and homburgs (men) and Gothic white ballet dresses or severe suits (girls). It can be confusing following the instructions, especially if it's too dark to see the numbers on the doors. And it's very hard obeying the command to take off your coat when you are wearing a scarf, a cross-body handbag AND an MP3 player.

In the foyer there are drifts of dead leaves and people shouting distantly. You go up and down stairs (sometimes struggling to keep up with the instructions). In the basement a table is set with a decaying, Miss Havishamesque banquet - mould is growing on the wine glasses. A woman plays the piano while others enact vague scenes of violence and coercion.

You find you are taking part in a council meeting. One woman insists that "there's a room in the building that isn't on the plans". Nobody believes her and she is hustled out.

Upstairs you are allowed to linger in a room full of art, and a cabinet of curiosities: outdated manuals on how to live and the secrets of health, slot-together skeletons and model aircraft.

Another room is full of architectural plans. In an inner office you wear rubber gloves while a man is tortured out of sight, and the Voice recites Shakespeare "Take but degree away, untune that string...".

You are led down again, down into the underworld... I was lucky, I found myself back in the foyer again.

1929's Facebook page is here.

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